It’s a new month and March’s featured star, Milton Sills, will pass the crown to a new performer. This month’s star is an American performer who found far greater success when she hopped on a boat for Germany.
The featured star is…
Betty Amann (1907-1990)
Born in Germany and raised in America, Betty Amann began her film career as eye candy in Mack Sennett and Larry Semon comedies, as well as a Tom Tyler western. When you’re resume has titles like Motorboat Mamas and The Campus Carmen, there’s nowhere to go but up. Amann headed for Germany and was cast as the female lead in Joe May’s Asphalt.
Amann played a sexy thief who seduces a naive policeman and both the actress and her eyelashes were a sensation. More German roles followed, along with some British productions (including one from Hitchcock) and even a Polish one but nothing quite matched Asphalt. With Germany’s political situation lurching toward a very dangerous period, Amann returned to the United States.
Amann continued to play supporting parts until the 1940s but the roles were hardly earth-shattering and, furthermore, 30s and 40s fashion just didn’t give her the same magic. Get this woman some false eyelashes, stat!
Amann represents a sort of couldawouldashoulda career and it’s impossible to say what would have happened if she had made Asphalt a few years earlier. Still, we can enjoy the films she did make and play the speculation game. (It should also be noted that much of her German career is unavailable for viewing.)
Why you should love her
If you want the sleek, stylish embodiment of the 1920s, Amann is it. Her aggressive performance in Asphalt is perfectly complemented by her iconic wardrobe and makeup. She’s an appealing bad girl, assertive and in charge. It’s a pity that her later career did not live up to this promising beginning but we’re fortunate to be viewing it at all. (Insert reminder of how many silent films are lost.)
Where you can see her
Amann’s silent starring roles are not the easiest things to obtain but I have reviewed two of them. (Links below.)
Asphalt (1929) is Amann’s most famous film and for good reason. The stylish direction and juicy role make it a real keeper. Plus, it’s fantastic fodder for your scrapbook of 1920s fashions.
The White Devil (1930) provides a much less interesting role for Amann; she plays a spoiled Caucasus chieftain’s daughter, pretty standard heroine stuff. However, she does get to chase Ivan Mosjoukine (who wouldn’t?) and director Alexandre Volkoff does his usual flashy stuff with the direction.
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